Preliminary requirements and possible technological solutions for the next generation of ground-based optical telescopes were laid down at ESO in 1998. Since then, a phase A study has been commissioned, the objective of which is to produce a conceptual design compatible, to the maximum possible extent, with proven technology, and establish realistic plans for detailed design, site selection, construction and operation for a 100-m class optical, diffraction-limited telescope. There was no doubt about how daunting such a challenge would be, but, somewhat surprisingly, it turns out to be firmly confined to adaptive optics concepts and technologies. The telescope itself appears to be feasible within the allocated budget and without reliance on exotic assumptions. Fabrication of key subsystems is fully within the reach of a properly engineered, industrialized process. A consolidated baseline is taking shape, and alternative system and subsystem solutions are being explored, strengthening the confidence that requirements could be met. Extensive development of wavefront measurement techniques enlarges the palette of solutions available for active wavefront control of a segmented, active telescope. At system level, ESO is developing enabling experiments to validate multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MAD for Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator) and telescope wavefront control (APE, for Active Phasing Experiment).